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Media pass in exchange for legal entitlements not on

Comment by Mark Hollands

The outcome to the rugby World Cup is disappointing, as both sides went through an exhaustive process. Ultimately, it comes down to TV rights. Globally, sports bodies sell exclusive rights that cannot be delivered where fair dealing provisions exist, as they do in Australia and New Zealand.

In these countries, media entities have the right to show limited action footage even if they are not the exclusive rights holder. Publishers, therefore, have the right to show video grabs on their websites.

Sports bodies seek to contract away this legal right by trying to persuade publishers to forego these rights in exchange for media accreditation. They do this because they’ve made contractual pledges of exclusivity to other rights holders.

This week, Australian publishers demonstrated for a second time to the rugby World Cup organisers that they will not contract away their legal rights in exchange for a media pass.

The rules do get more complex, especially where sports bodies seek to ban media organisations from video reporting from outside the ground – even though it is public access and they have absolutely no right to make such demands.

On this occasion, organisers wanted copyright ownership of some materials too.

The bottom line is simple, as demonstrated in 2011 – readers will actually get a better experience on all platforms if publishers do not sign accreditation documents. In addition, newspapers will not put themselves in legally complex situations that run the risk of sky-high legal costs to report on a sport.

These difficult and lamentable situations occur only with international sports organisers today. In Australia, sports bodies and news publishers have a much healthier relationship and will often work together.

Everyone wins in in this situation.

No one can claim victory in this latest rugby World Cup decision. It is a sad and frustrating outcome but a principled decision had to be made by news publishers.

They will not contract away their legal rights to gain access to a sports ground.

Mark Hollands is the CEO of The Newspaper Works.

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